Reflect on God’s Word
Ludwig van Beethoven stood facing the orchestra as the last notes of his Symphony no. 9 faded away. After it was over, he continued to face the musicians, perhaps wondering where he had gone wrong. Why was there no applause from the audience?
Finally, a singer approached one of the greatest composers of all time, turned him around, and let him see the wild, thundering applause raining down on him from the crowd.
You see, by the time his Symphony no. 9 in D Minor, op. 125, also known as the Choral Symphony, was premiered in 1824, Beethoven was profoundly deaf. He couldn’t hear the applause of the people.1
Are you sometimes deaf to the applause of God? Sometimes we can be so focused on winning the approval of others that we forget how very much God approves of us.
In Galatians 1:10, the apostle Paul addresses this very issue:
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Paul had much to recommend about himself:
If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. — Philippians 3:4-6
But you know what Paul says next?
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. — Philippians 3:7
What a burden it is to try to please everyone. Paul told the Corinthians that he became all things to all people so he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22), but his goal was not to make people like him; it was to proclaim the gospel in a way people could hear. When your goal is to be liked, it may feel good to please others, but when you fail to do so the next time, it can send you spiraling down.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about this issue of pleasing people as well.
We speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed — God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. — 1 Thessalonians 2:4-6
So how do you listen to the approval you already have from God (1 Thessalonians 2:4)? 1 Corinthians 4:5 says,
Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.
About this verse, missionary and Bible teacher Rick Renner wrote, “Paul used the word epainos to evoke a very strong image. By using this word, he let us know that a day is coming when we will give account for our lives. On that day, if we have lived right before God and the motives behind our service were pure, we will receive praise from the Lord Himself. It will be as if He rises to His feet to give a round of applause and a standing ovation! In fact, Paul’s imagery is so strong that the verse could be loosely interpreted, “And at that time every man will have the applause of God.”2
Picture that moment. You stand before the throne of God and He looks over your life, all you’ve done, your motivations for doing them, your heart. And then He stands to his feet and begins to applaud you. You hear the words
Well done, good and faithful servant. — Matthew 25:21
All you ever heard from the people in your life before this moment pales in comparison. All those times when you did something you really didn’t want to do, but you wanted the approval of the person asking? Forgotten. Those times when you said something you didn’t really feel because you knew the person listening wanted to hear it? Gone.
Waking up in the morning wanting to be liked, accepted, and admired can be a fearsome burden, causing you to question everything you do and everything that’s true about you. But you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14); you sparkle like jewels (Zechariah 9:16); you are His treasured possession (Malachi 3:17).
- Be still and listen to the applause of your heavenly Father. When you focus on Him and live to please Him, you will find greater peace.
Release Who You Thought You Were
God invites you to rest peacefully in the knowledge that He has called you and made you worthy. Take a deep breath. Don’t look anywhere else but to Him for your validation. Turn the eyes of your heart toward Jesus and His great love for you.
- Breathe in: I am God’s child.
- Breathe out: I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Let your breathing grow deeper and slower as you hold those words close.
I am God’s child.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Think about the way you feel when someone praises you. Those words of encouragement are a gift from God and should be enjoyed as such. But if you rely on words of praise from others to feel valuable and appreciated, you are falling into a trap. Ask God to show you ways to break free of the need to be praised.
If you worried less about what other people thought of you, how would that change the way you approach the work God has given you to do? If He calls you to lead a Bible study and somebody thinks you should work in the nursery instead, do you succumb to their wishes, or continue doing what God asked you to do?
Maybe you want to be a part of a group at work or at school, but they are participating in activities you have decided you don’t want to participate in. Do you bow to the pressure to join in just so they will like you, or do you stick to your convictions and maybe experience rejection?
Call to mind some areas of your life where you have been seeking people’s approval. Offer those areas to God. It’s human nature to want to be accepted, but when you strive to please others, forgetting how much you are accepted by God, you live in fear of rejection instead of finding your peace in Christ.
- When you don’t hear applause from others, close your eyes and hear the applause of God.
Even when you are doing nothing but resting, God approves of you. Let that truth sink deeply into your soul. Draw near to Him in prayer, and He will show you how He wants you to live.
God, You made me and called me a good creation. And while I was still a sinner, you sent your Son, Jesus, to free me from my sin and reconcile me to you. You’ve called me your child and given me every spiritual blessing. When I’m feeling insecure and look to others for approval, help me seek comfort in these truths. It’s so easy for me to want the applause of people, but when I am commended by people, it might feel good in the moment, but it never seems to last. I’m just one decision away from doing something they disapprove of. It’s a roller coaster! Teach me to look to you for my sense of worth and to embrace the truth that I am approved by You. It’s in the name of Jesus that I pray, amen.
JOURNAL PROMPT: Write down the times when you typically find yourself most tempted to seek the approval of others. What do you think God would have you do in these situations?
1. Britannica, s.v. “Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125,” last modified February 21, 2019, https://www.britannica.com /topic/Symphony-No-9-in-D-Minor.
2. Rick Renner, “The Applause of God,” Renner.org, accessed August 10, 2021, https://renner.org/article/the-applause-of -god/, italics in original.
Excerpted with permission from Cast Your Cares: A 40-Day Journey to Find Rest for Your Soul copyright Carpenter’s Code, Inc.
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Stop and listen to the Lord today. He is proud of you! There’s no use trying to please everyone. It’s exhausting, fruitless, and impossible. But, God looks at you and sees His marvelous, wonderful child whom He loves and deeply approves of. Enjoy that! Come share your thoughts. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full